Crystal Structure of Cucumene Synthase, a Terpenoid Cyclase That Generates a Linear Triquinane Sesquiterpene.

Publication Type:

Journal Article


Biochemistry, Volume 57, Issue 44, p.6326-6335 (2018)


<p>Linear triquinanes are sesquiterpene natural products with hydrocarbon skeletons consisting of three fused five-membered rings. Importantly, several of these compounds exhibit useful anticancer, anti-inflammatory, and antibiotic properties. However, linear triquinanes pose significant challenges to organic synthesis because of the structural and stereochemical complexity of their hydrocarbon skeletons. To illuminate nature&#39;s solution to the generation of linear triquinanes, we now describe the crystal structure of Streptomyces clavuligerus cucumene synthase. This sesquiterpene cyclase catalyzes the stereospecific cyclization of farnesyl diphosphate to form a linear triquinane product, (5 S,7 S,10 R,11 S)-cucumene. Specifically, we report the structure of the wild-type enzyme at 3.05 Å resolution and the structure of the T181N variant at 1.96 Å resolution, both in the open active site conformations without any bound ligands. The high-resolution structure of T181N cucumene synthase enables inspection of the active site contour, which adopts a three-dimensional shape complementary to a linear triquinane. Several aromatic residues outline the active site contour and are believed to facilitate cation-π interactions that would stabilize carbocation intermediates in catalysis. Thus, aromatic residues in the active site not only define the template for catalysis but also play a role in reducing activation barriers in the multistep cyclization cascade.</p>